Ness Notes: Tuesday, Dec 15

by Larry Ness

This column will be available Monday through Friday (posted no later than 1:00 ET), EXCLUSIVELY at BigAl.com. I like to call it my daily 'random thoughts' on the sports betting world, although I'll pass along that my therapist refers to it as "thoughtful commentary."

NFL Week 14 recap: I think we all have a tendency to bemoan our "bad beats," while taking for granted our "lucky wins." That being said, I don't remember an NFL season (this is my 37th as a professional handicapper) with more 'fantastic finishes' and while I've had my share of 'bad beats' in 2020, I sure got a 'lucky' win last night with the Ravens. The Ravens and Browns will forever remain a great rivalry, as Art Modell moved the Browns out of Cleveland prior to the 1996 season to become the Baltimore Ravens, while the Cleveland franchise, after a three-year hiatus, returned in 1999 retaining the Browns name and history. Last night's game was a classic, with the Ravens prevailing 47-42. Baltimore entered the fourth quarter leading 34-20 but two lead changes and then a tie at 42-all with just 1:04 left, set up a bizzaro ending. I'll leave it at that, as you either watched it live or in replays via your cable outlet or device of choice. 

When all the 'dust' from Week 14 had settled, home teams were just 7-8 SU and 9-6 ATS (San Francisco again played a 'home game in Glendale, making it a neutral-site contest), while home dogs checked in at 3-6 and 4-5 ATS. The 16 contests averaged 48.0 PPG but just FIVE games went over the total, meaning 11 stayed under. Doing the math, home teams are 102-103-2 (.498) SU and 98-106-2 (48.0%) ATS. NFL totals have seen 98 overs, 105 unders and five pushes.

We can always seem to count on the Jets for consistency and their 40-3 loss at Seattle gives them a franchise-record 13 straight losses (4-9 ATS). However, the Jets had better not slip up and win a game, because the Jags are 'right on their tail,' losing for the 12th straight time (Jags beat the Colts 27-20 in Week 1) in a 31-10 home loss to the Titans (Jags are 6-7 ATS). Speaking of ATS records, the Cowboys are an NFL-worst 3-10, while the Dolphins are an NFL-best at 10-3. Note that no other team is better than 8-5 ATS.

Once upon a time the Steelers were 11-0 but a second straight loss (26-15 at Buffalo on SNF) has allowed the defending champion Chiefs to take over the NFL's best record (and No. 1 seed in the AFC) at 12-1. The Chiefs ended the 2019 regular season on a six-game winning streak and then won three postseason games on their way to winning the Super Bowl. Throw in 2020's 12-1 record and KC is a pretty 'sweet' 21-1 SU over its last 22 games. However, after going 8-0-1 ATS in 2019's finishing run of NINE straight wins, the 2020 Chiefs are just 6-7 ATS in going 12-1, the same point spread mark as the 1-12 Jags (see above). Need a more stark reminder that the NFL point spread is "the great equalizer?"

The Saints entered Sunday with the NFL's longest-active winning streak (NINE in a row) but lost 24-21 at Philadelphia, as Jalen Hurts made his first NFL start. Hurts was 17 of 30 for 167 yards (one TD and zero INTs), while rushing for 106 yards on 5.9 YPC. Can you say Lamar Jackson? Is the "Wentz era" over in Philly? Coupled with Green Bay's less than impressive 31-24 win at Detroit, the Saints loss dropped them to 10-3 and tied with the Packers for the NFC's best record. However, with the Packers having won in New Orleans in Week 3 (37-30), Green Bay currently owns the NFC's No. 1 seed.

NFL Week 15 kicks off on Thursday (Chargers at Raiders) plus also has two Saturday games, with the Bills at the Broncos and the Panthers at the Packers. I'll move my NFL preview to Thursday and my CFB preview to Friday. 

CFB updates from Monday: Oregon will replace Washington as the Pac-12 North representative in the conference championship football game on Friday. It was determined the Huskies would be unable to field the 53 scholarship players needed to play because of positive cases for COVID-19 and the related contact-tracing protocols. The Huskies were also below the required number for a specific position group. 3-2 Oregon will square off against 5-0 USC which moved up to No. 13 in the latest AP poll at the LA Memorial Coliseum (USC's home field). Another major development came with the NCAA Football Oversight Committee announcing Monday that Football Bowl Subdivision teams will be able to replace canceled bowl games after Dec 19 .These matchups must replace a previously scheduled bowl game and will have to feature teams from the originally contracted conferences AND these contests will have to be played prior to the conclusion of the calendar year. I'll comment on these developments plus the new CFP standings (which come out tonight) in Wednesday's Notes.

The new college basketball AP poll came out Monday afternoon and the top-5 remained the same. No. 1 Gonzaga (54 first-place votes) and No. 2 Baylor (7) have been 1-2 in each of the four polls this season. The Bulldogs are 3-0 and haven't played since Dec 2, having had FIVE games postponed or canceled due to COVID-19 protocols. Gonzaga is scheduled to face No. 3 Iowa in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, this coming Saturday. Iowa is 6-0 and the owners of one first-place vote. The Bears announced last Saturday that they would pause team activities as well and are also scheduled to visit Kansas State this coming Saturday. 6-0 Michigan St is No. 4 and 6-1 Kansas is No. 5 (lone loss is to No. 1 Gonzaga).

No. 6 Illinois fell to 13th after losing at Missouri with that Tigers win catapulting them into the top-25 at No. 16. Missouri was last ranked back in the 203-14 season. Joining the Tigers as 'newbies' to this week's top-25 are 5-0 Clemson at No. 24 and 6-0 Michigan at No. 25. The Wolverines were No. 25 preseason poll but dropped out in the first regular season poll (Nov 30) but I guess a 6-0 start gets them "back to where they started." Duke is just 2-2 and is down at No. 21 (was No. 10) and 4-2 North Carolina is ranked 22nd, down from No. 16     

There were no Monday games between ranked opponents (higher ranked teams are 9-5 SU but 6-8 ATS) but No. 9 Creighton hosted Marquette and No. 19 Rutgers opened Big Ten play with a game at Maryland. The Bluejays lost 89-84 at home, while the Scarlet Knights won 74-60. Both winning teams had HUGE second halves as Marquette outscored Creighton 54-40 and Seton Hall outscored Maryland 47-32. There are again no games between ranked opponents on Tuesday, although there are FIVE games featuring a ranked team vs an unranked opponent. No. 10 Tennessee (2-0) is home to 4-1 Appalachian St and is favored by 18 1/2 points. No. 12 Wisconsin (4-1) is home to 3-0 Loyola-Chicago and is favored by 8 1/2-points. No. 13 Illinois (4-2) is coming off a rollercoaster 11-day span (Dec 2-12) in which the Fighting Illini lost to No. 2 Baylor, won at then-No. 10 Duke and then lost their Braggin' Rights game at Missouri. Illinois welcomes 6-0 Minnesota to State Farm Center tonight as an eight-point favorite. No. 15 Florida St (3-0) hosts 2-2 Ga Tech and is favored by eight points plus No. 24 Clemson (5-0) has a real challenge playing at 4-1 Va Tech, where the Hokies are a one-point choice. Ranked teams enter Tuesday 84-11 (.884) SU but a much more modest 52-41-2 (55.9%) ATS vs unranked opponents.

Good luck...Larry

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